Munich has the look and feel of a simpler, bygone age. And then it gets dark and the modern world comes out to play. Yet despite its indisputable reputation for A-list shopping, eating, drinking and, yes, cruising, this southern German metropolis remains something of a best-kept-secret destination, often overlooked in favour of European rivals Berlin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Barcelona and Madrid. It’s most surely worth a visit, especially if you like to shop, eat, drink and cruise, and view great and serious works of art and architecture, from the ancient Egyptian to the modern. Gravitas indeed.
Munich officially became the capital city of the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1806, and four years later staged its first Oktoberfest the 16-day late September/early October beer-culture event that continues to attract millions and allows the locals to dress in ways that some might find positively stimulating, whether snug-fitting Lederhosen for the men or bosom-embracing frilly tops for the women. There’s a folklorish time warp thing going on here, but the jolly-romp atmosphere is not without its appeal. And while the tradition-heavy Oktoberfest might sound like a straight-specific institution, it’s not. Nor is its early-March sibling, the similarly drink-heavy Starkbierfest, which neatly coincides with an annual leather/fetish weekend. Gays go in big for both Bavarian beer fests, and are more than happy to clink glasses and slap and rub thighs with the odd foreigner. Unsurprisingly, Christmas is also a major deal in Munich, as is the annual gay-themed street festival in Hans-Sachs Strasse, staged on the third Saturday in August.
Badehaus Deutsche Eiche – As steamy as gay Bavaria gets
Tucked away in the rear of the gay-iconic Hotel Deutsche Eiche and its restaurant you’ll find this extraordinary, labryinthine sauna with a 300-guy capacity. The vision of hotel owners Dietmar Holzapfel and Josef ‘Sepp’ Sattler, the Eiche opened in 1995, giving bathhouse sex a new lease of life following its decline during the grim height of AIDS among gay men. The venue has expanded continually, now on four floors and marked by a convoluted but rather sexy cat-and-mouse layout. Customers number more than 100,000 annually, but that seismic figure pales in comparison with the wowness of the fact that school groups of 14- and 15-year-olds visit throughout the year (during off hours, of course) for educative and eye-opening views of glory holes, slings, private cabins and SM devices. This is the modern world. Other features include a Finnish sauna, a salt sauna, hot tub, solarium, tropical shower area, massage, roof garden, winter garden, porn rooms, a café-bar and more.
Müller’sches Volksbad – Swimming gaily
An art nouveau and neo-baroque jewel, this swimming pool dates from 1901. The engineer Karl Müller (1821–1909) donated it to the city of Munich on the condition that it be a pool for the poor. Müller used the architectural design of Carl Hocheder (1854–1917), with vaulted ceilings, dramatic staircases, endless arches and elegrant grandeur. It’s located just east of the Glockenbachviertel, over the river. Unofficially gays are known to make a bigger splash on Tuesday evenings (wink wink).
M54 Saunaclub – Wet and Central
Popular sauna located in the thick of it, named after its street address.
Schwabinger Men Sauna – Another gay sauna to consider
One of the city’s few gay enterprises not within the gay borders of the Glockenbachviertel, this sauna is located just a few U-Bahn stops to the north of the main action. The decor’s a bit busy, crazy/funky and red. U-Bahns: Bonnerplatz and Schneidplatz.
Buddy– Dark and packed, with sex on the brain.
Centrally located and nearly cluttered sex-goods shop handling man-specific merchandise, with small porn Kino (cinema) out back.
Duplexx – Sex cinema with an accessory shop attached
Munich’s outpost of the sex cinema/shop enterprise that has outlets in Berlin, Dresden and Stuttgart. Interestingly, this is not located in the gay ghetto Glockenbachviertel, giving other pockets of the city a chance at sexual expression.
Herrensauna am Hauptbahnhof – Cosy sauna for older men and their followers
A dry sauna catering to older men, from fortysomethings on upwards. It’s been around since the early 50s, when it’s possible (though doubtful?) that some of its current clientele might recall its arrival on the scene.
If we missed anything be sure to bring it up in the comments section below. As well as recommendations for the next city we dive deep into.